Why we're really scared of the TVs that spy on us

The privacy policy for Samsung's cutting edge smart TV warns users that anything they say within the vicinity of the telly could be recorded

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The Independent Culture

Ever fancied yourself and your family as the new stars of Channel 4's Gogglebox? Be careful what you wish for. We may all soon be watched as we watch, and in a far more sinister way than previously imagined.

An activist for US-based group Electronic Frontier Foundation has drawn the world’s attention to the small print in the privacy policy for Samsung’s cutting edge smart TV. It warns users that anything they say within the vicinity of the telly could be recorded: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of voice recognition.”

Actually, this sort of nightmare, spy-in-the-home scenario has been feasible for some time, thanks to a variety of other voice command and webcam-equipped household devices. If you’re reading this on a laptop right now, for instance, then, for all you know, the webcam is simultaneously transmitting pictures of your gorgeous face to hacker-perverts on the other side of the globe. Say cheese!

The prospect of a spying TV is particularly unnerving, however, but not because the breach of our privacy is any more flagrant. While most people use their computer in near-silence, lots of us talk out loud to our television set and as Gogglebox fans will attest, the things we say can be very revealing. We shout out the answers to questions on Pointless, shout abuse at politicians on Question Time and offer encouragement to favourite soap opera characters when they’re going through a hard time (“Noooo Michelle! Don’t give him another chance!”). Or is that just me?

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